STUDY Exercise helps cut health risks while travelling
W hen someone is travelling, the means of transportation is usually the only thing that moves. The traveller is inactive.
“Hardly moving your body and having little legroom for hours on end carries the risk of congestion,” warns Dieter Breithecker, head of Germany's Federal Association for Promoting Good Posture and Physical Activity (BAG).
Since blood flow back to the heart slows down, “swollen and heavy legs — in severe cases even a blood clot — can result,” Breithecker says. As for motorists, they risk falling into a dreaded micro-sleep, particularly when their circadian cycle is at its lowest ebb.
The best precaution is regular and, more importantly, purposeful exercise while travelling. Breithecker advises passengers to select, if possible, an aisle seat in a bus, train or plane. Walking a few steps every hour as well as bending, stretching and rotating the feet helps to activate the heart.
Breithecker says that motorists should take a break every two hours to move around and do balancing exercises. He also recommends drinking fluids regularly — about a half-litre per hour, but no alcohol, coffee or black tea — and to wear loose-fitting clothing and comfortable shoes.
Balancing exercises are quite effective in keeping motorists alert. Standing on one leg for 10 seconds with closed eyes, or first on one leg and then the other, is optimal “doping” for the brain, according to Breithecker, who says it significantly boosts nerve cell metabolism.
“Equally energising is trying to adjust to the irregular movements of the transportation vehicle while standing with one foot in front of the other and the hands free,” he says.